Saturday, July 27, 2013


When Google announced the Chromecast a few days ago, at first I shrugged it off as "interesting, but whatever".
But then when I realized I could get it from Amazon with free Prime Shipping, and it came with 3 free months of Netflix even for existing customers, (sorry, the Netflix offer expired after they realized how broken it was) I just couldn't resist! A grand effective total of $11. I've paid more for stupider things.

So, because of Prime Shipping, it arrived only 2 days later.

Setup was simple. I did it from the Android app; it sets up an ad-hoc wifi network so that you can enter the real wifi credentials, and then you are ready for business.

And, for what it is, it does what it does well.
I installed the Android app, the Windows app, and the Chrome extension (on both my PC and my wife's Mac)
I was able to stream youtube from both my phone and both PCs with no problem.
For Netflix, the first time I tried, Silverlight crashed. But the second time it was just fine.
For "tab casting", I had some trouble, but it turned out that it doesn't work so well with AMD Switchable Graphics, which is exactly what I have in my primary laptop. I get mixed results there, but it does work with Chrome on the Macbook. I'll just have to sit tight and wait for them to fix that other bug.

Tab Casting is pretty interesting. The number one reason is -- at least for now -- free Hulu works! Even in Full Screen!
So we can project Hulu videos -- or videos from any site that doesn't have an "app" interface for the Chromecast -- onto the TV with the greatest of ease.
For Hulu specifically, I suspect that will be getting blocked as soon as they figure out how.

What I haven't tried yet is playing a local video file in a tab and pushing it to the Chromecast. This allegedly works...

Now the downsides:
Other than the bugs, which I hope are getting worked on, and the limited number of things that work with it outside of the Chrome browser..
1) It isn't really easily controllable.  It's not for everyone. You still need a PC or smartphone to control the content, and especially with broadcasting a tab, it means controlling it from the actual webpage on your screen. This isn't as easy for Netflix as using the PS3 remote, which my 5-year-old can do by himself.

2) Video quality -- well, this could be psychological, but we noticed that some videos seemed to be lower quality.  That being said, the "tabcasting" feature caps at 720p so that might have something to do with it, but it was even the case with Youtube. It's too early to tell whether that was just a matter of the videos we chose, or a real issue.

That's all I can really say so far.
Do I recommend it for nerds? Sure.
Will I use it every day? Probably not.
Do I recommend it for normal people, over some other streaming box?  Maybe not until more content is directly supported. Even though it's a mere $35, I think you might still be better off spending more money on something easier to use.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"What's a MOBA?"

Last night, after failing to resume the previous week's Civ V multiplayer game because of a combination of general Steam issues and an apparently crappy "set up multiplayer game" UI (according to the host), I was told to download and try out League of Legend.
Kevin explained to me that it was a "moba" as if I would know what that word meant. He didn't even give me room to ask, so I had to google it and find out that there's a rich history behind this specific type of game.
Apparently this is a whole class of games that already has a huge lexicon associated with it, and players on public internet games who are nothing but newbie-hating dicks.
The tutorial told me "Get In Your Lane" without explaining that terminology, for example.
And the tutorial even called me bad names for idling too long when I went to talk to my wife just getting home from work. It said it might flag me for bad behavior -- in a single player tutorial!
I didn't play long enough to say I've formulated a full opinion on the game, but I didn't seem to understand what the big deal was after playing through the tutorial.  I'll have to try it.

The same Kevin tried to get me into a similar, but turn-based, game on iOS. I think maybe it was called "Hero Academy"? I got bored of that one pretty quickly too (not just because I kept losing, but because there wasn't a lot of variety in what you could do), so maybe this just isn't my style of video game.

(Ironically, a game like Hero Academy in boardgame form might actually be fun for me. I dunno why)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

BSG Personal Goals Variant

Ooh... gaming content!
Here's a little idea I had about BSG rules, which may be rendered completely obsolete by something in Daybreak. But hey..

Cross-posting to the boardgamegeek forum:

I really don't like Personal Goals, conceptually.
They are completely backwards.  Most of the time, even though it's called a personal goal, you have pretty much no incentive to fulfill its conditions unless the listed resource is specifically low. And due to the replacement clause, you are unlikely to even think about some of them until after Distance 6.

So here's my simple idea, instead of "Lose this resource at the end of the game" clause (untested):

At the end of the game, reveal all unfulfilled Personal Goals.
For each unfulfilled Personal Goal, destroy one raptor. If there are no raptors, lower one resource with the lowest value by 1 instead.

Note that this still only matters in a "Humans Win" situation. An unrevealed Cylon with a Personal Goal follows the same rules.

I think that this simple change isn't overpowered, yet still gives players just enough push to try and fulfill their personal goals early and often.

It also gives more incentive for protecting raptors after scouting is irrelevant, if you have Goals that may not be achievable.

Your thoughts?